A group of young Finnish architects - Sini Rahikainen, Hannele Cederström, Inka Norros, Kirsti Paloheimo, Maria Kleimola - has won an open competition seeking ideas to "connect and integrate" two Alvar Aalto masterpieces - the Alvar Aalto museum and the Museum of Central Finland in Jyväskylä's Ruusupuisto park. With their entry, "Silmu," the winning team was selected over 689 other entries for creating a sensible proposal that met the competitions main goal - "to adapt to its worthy environment in a balanced way, and to find a natural connection with the architecture of Alvar Aalto."
“The high-end entries stand out from the rest with their clear, striking ideas and formal properties. The best things about Silmu were its atmosphere and the subtle contours. It was also seen as adding an extra, tranquil element between the Alvar Aalto Museum and the Museum of Central Finland, while further increasing the functionality of the outdoor spaces,” says Director of the Alvar Aalto Foundation Tommi Lindh.
From the jury: As the pseudonym of the entry suggests (‘bud’ in Finnish), the gentle form is superbly sensitive and powerful at the same time. It is memorable and structures the new architecture to specifically suit this location.
The simple, flat-roofed shape of the extension settles unostentatiously into its location. The curved forms of the interior can be sensed through the minimalist glass facade. Its lightness is in appropriate contrast to the museum buildings, making the extension stand out as a new layer and not fusing together the museums into a single mass. In the space between the museums, the nuance of the existing natural state is laudably preserved due to the form and materials of the new building.
It is commendable that the exterior areas have been researched and structured so extensively. Demarcating the green areas with a broken line is interesting, but its relationship to the protected surroundings requires further investigation. The cafe terrace has found its natural location.
The functional emphasis and broad outlines of the spatial solution are appropriate. The main space of the extension is on the lower level, and creates a spatial totality together with the Alvar Aalto Museum cafe. This is an ideal solution in terms of the functionality of the museum shop. The visitor is led by beautifully curving lines towards the upper floors along ramps that follow the soft forms of the bud. A functional weakness in the scheme is the connection to the Museum of Central Finland, which ends up being pushed towards the rear, next to the lift corridor, and feels somewhat cramped. The barrier-free access of the proposal is based entirely on the existence of the ramp, and the existing lift has not been utilised. The public access connection to the lift on the lowest floor can probably, nevertheless, be created, in which case the lower ramp could be made slightly steeper, or perhaps even built as a stairs, thus making the connection somewhat more spacious at the level +87.554. The solution for the storage spaces should also be refined, so that they better serve both museums.
The courtyard solution raises conflicting feelings. As an idea and in its design it is a beautiful, integral part of the totality, but both technically and functionally it is extremely challenging. As an exterior space it is should be developed into a form that is less in a natural state – the idea of thriving wild greenery in such a space is not credible. Its implementation as a glass-covered heated interior space could be a more recommendable solution. In that way, the space would be functionally more justified and versatile in use. In the diagrams for the proposal, preliminary guidelines for the use have indeed been provided, for instance for performances. The design concept is powerful and one can see that it could take even considerable further development without losing its architectonic effect. The comprehensiveness of the bud shape should not, however, be compromised.
The proposal is a diamond in the rough. The decisive factor in the scheme is the beautifully curved line that calmly and naturally finds its place. The design requires a lot of further development, but it gives the promise of an architecture that is powerfully self-contained, while at the same time in a subtle balance with its surroundings.
Competition organizers, Alvar Aalto Foundation and the City of Jyväskylä awarded the winners with a prize of 14 000€.
Second place went to “Kannel” (a name for the Finnish kantele or zither), a proposal submitted by another Finnish working group, and third place to “The Ground and the Roof” proposed by the Australian-Spanish SMAR Architecture Studio. Apart from the top three, two other entries were purchased and two were given honourable mentions. You can learn more about those submissions, here.